Talk around a Cape Town water cooler




Accounting was the furthest from the water cooler, and this was a problem. Conrad from accounting turned the corner from his office and spotted Lindiwe doing the same from hers. Conrad blatantly increased his pace but still arrived at the water cooler after Lindiwe, who slammed her hand on the top of the container rather possessively.

Positioned at the nozzle at an angle sure to guarantee at least a three-quarter harvest was a large, professional-grade cycling water bottle.
Conrad grabbed a small paper cup and braced himself for small talk.

“Really dry at the moment,” Lindiwe said. “Is, yes,” replied Conrad. “Day Zero set for April 21, I believe,” said Lindiwe, now sitting on her haunches. “Creeping closer,” said Conrad. Two large air bubbles equivalent in volume to the amount of water in Lindiwe’s bottle rose to the surface of the water cooler after a hollow bloomp, which sounded to Conrad eerily similar to a death knell.

The boss arrived carrying a 10 litre bucket and a short hose. “Morning,” he said and gestured towards the water cooler. “Mind if I … ?” “Not at all,” said Lindiwe as she stood up and stepped back. The boss connected his hose to the rapidly emptying water cooler.

A man in an overall carrying a refill for the water cooler appeared. Lindiwe and Conrad grew hopeful but it was quickly clear from the way he was holding the refill that it was, in fact, empty. The man took his place at the back of the queue.

Another bloomp — much hollower than the one that preceded it — rang out as the last of the water in the water cooler dripped into the boss’s bucket. The boss removed the hosepipe, picked up his bucket and strolled off to the kitchen. Conrad, Lindiwe and the water cooler guy followed him to the kitchen, where they lined up in the same sequence that had been the case in the hallway.

The boss connected his pipe, positioned his bucket in the sink and opened the tap. “The CBD will be spared they say,” he said. “From the closing of the taps, I mean.” “Not if it’s left to De Lille,” said Lindiwe, perhaps a little too loudly. “I believe her powers have been curtailed,” said Conrad. “Good thing about Ramaphosa,” the water cooler guy piped up from the back. “I bet we’ll be seeing a lot more investment.”

At that point the tap dried up, prompting the boss to step forward and take action, the nature of which was not immediately clear. The tap gurgled, releasing the boss to his former position.

“Investments won’t make it rain,” he said in response to the water cooler guy’s impotent remark. “It’s going to come down to the community working together. Have you guys been using the water map?” he asked his employees. “Dark green dot,” Lindiwe confidently chimed. “I live in a houseshare setup, so I don’t know how that ...” began Conrad but was cut short when the tap dried up again. “Well, that’s it I guess,” announced the boss and lifted his bucket from the sink with great effort. “Have a productive day all,” he said, and left the kitchen.

JS Smit

JS Smit

JS Smit is a Cape Town-based freelance writer. Formally trained as a copywriter, he took a break from ads in 2010 to write a blog for the Mail & Guardian's Thought Leader and since 2015 has written for the Mail & Guardian. Read more from JS Smit

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